Armed with two small glass jars of glue and two small paint brushes, Murray C. Combs is binding periodicals, genealogical histories and other articles into book form to help the Kuethe Library in Glen Burnie make the most of its tiny quarters.
The periodicals "are a nuisance," explained Mr. Combs, a self-taught bookbinder. "You can't stand them on the shelves or anything."
He estimated that he has bound more than 50 periodicals since he took up the project six weeks ago. The library, home to the Historical & Genealogical Research Center, is run by the Anne Arundel County Genealogical Society and the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society.
Mr. Combs, a volunteer for the genealogical society, usually works on bookbinding when he is not helping people research their genealogy.
A few pages of the book he was working on yesterday weren't lined up just right and the corners of others were folded over.
"If you leave one of those corners tucked in, it doesn't come out right," said Mr. Combs, opening a wooden clamp and running his fingers across the pages to straighten them.
A retired mechanic who worked at Fort Meade, Mr. Combs' interest in bookbinding was piqued through another project of his, saving "wounded books."
"Most of these are just old and tired," he said, picking up a badly tattered book.
Mr. Combs said he tried to teach himself bookbinding by reading how-to books, but found them too technical. He said he got the idea for the work he is doing now after a fellow genealogical society member "showed me a phone book and he said, 'These pages are just glued together.' So I said, 'What the hell? If Ma Bell can do it, so can I.' And it worked."
He experimented with books at home before trying his hand at the library's collection.
But when he comes upon books with stitched seams he sends them out for repairs.
"I have no ambition to get involved with them. I'm 77 years old," said Mr. Combs, adding that he doesn't have the tools, either.
In addition to the glue and brushes, Mr. Combs has a black iron press to help the glue adhere firmly to the pages and matte board to make covers.
"This benefits our library and our patrons because it gives us a hardcover book instead of a softcover one falling over on the shelves," said Mary K. Meyer, the library's director.
Mr. Combs fingered the rounded spines of some periodicals. He hasn't tackled them yet because he isn't sure how to get glue to adhere to them.
But he said, "I'll get down to this eventually."